Kentucky Kingdom is a very popular amusement park in the United States. The park draws in more than 1 million guests, approximately, per season.
The park is located in Louisville, Kentucky. Many think of the park as being a fun place to visit for thrills. After all, the park has a few roller coasters, many other rides, attractions, and a water park.
Kentucky Kingdom has a very unique history compared to most amusement parks. The park has closed 2 times during it’s lifetime.
The history of Kentucky Kingdom is very complex and interesting.
Let the story begin…
Kentucky Kingdom could not really be considered an “amusement park” when it opened in 1987.
10 acres of land were leased to investors from Texas, to be used to extend from the Kentucky State Fair which is a very popular attraction.
The park had a roller coaster, bumper cars, and other rides too.
Stricker’s Grove can be used to illustrate the type of park that Kentucky Kingdom was during this time.
However, the park filed for bankruptcy after not making enough profit. Not just profit, but the park could not pay contractors or vendors who worked for the park. This includes people who helped set up and build, or provide attractions/services for the park.
This represents that the park, financially, was unstable. They were unable to operate with unpaid workers and no revenue. This just doesn’t work.
Almost all of the rides at the park were sold at an auctioned sale a few months after the park closed.
The park was closed in 1988 and 1989. Ed Hart, the current owner of the park today, bought rights to operate the park in 1989.
Right when he came to the park and learned that people had been unpaid, he made sure that they were paid.
In 1990, after months of preparation, the park reopened. With a new management team and operators for the park.
The roller coaster, Starchaser, remained at the park during 1988-1989. It was sold during the auction. Reminds me of the Big Dipper roller coaster from Geauga Lake.
The ride was still at the park and the group of investors holding rights to the park decided to purchase it.
Several rides were added to the park, in addition to a new roller coaster.
For the 1992 season, the park opened Hurricane Bay. It is the water park that is well-known to just naturally be connected with the amusement park. A ferris wheel was also added too.
In 1994, a record-breaking water ride was added to the park’s lineup of attractions. A roller coaster geared toward younger children opened.
For the 1995 season, T2 opened. Now, called T3. A drop tower was added to the park near the beginning of Fall 1995.
In 1996, an upcharge attraction opened at the park for hopes of raising more guest excitement to turn it into revenue.
In 1997, Chang was added to the park. It was a B&M Stand-Up roller coaster. It set world records for that type of coaster. Go-Karts were added, another upcharge attraction.
Near the end of 1997, Ed Hart sold the rights to Premier Parks to operate Kentucky Kingdom. Premier Parks later merged with Six Flags, making the park Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom.
A $5 million dollar wooden coaster was to be built by the name of “Double Trouble”. Once Premier took over the park’s operations in 1997, they renamed it to “Twisted Sisters”.
Premier Parks planned to retheme one section of the park. Many of the rides to be renamed, were never actually taken into action.
Many of them had a fresh new coat of paint, even some different colors, but the plans were never completely effective.
Six Flags was going to add two new roller coasters, but the plans were eliminated due to Six Flags Ohio.
A wild mouse coaster and sky coaster was added in 2001.
A band is named Twisted Sister. The park was in a threat of a lawsuit from the band because of their roller coaster “Twisted Sisters”.
They were forced to rename the ride, and it was called “Twisted Twins”.
A shuttle loop coaster opened in 2003. The Quake which was added during the Ed Hart era, was removed due to malfunctions.
In 2007, Six Flags renamed Hurricane Bay. The new name was called “Six Flags Splashwater Kingdom”. Deluge, the first water coaster in North America opened at the water park.
Hellevator, the park’s drop tower, was rethemed to Superman: Tower of Power for the 2007 season.
In June 2007, an incident occurred on Superman: Tower of Power. It resulted in a 13-year old having her leg amputated after a cable malfunction occurred on the ride.
Superman: Tower of Power was removed in 2008 due to the incident.
A new waterslide was added to Splashwater Kingdom in 2008.
Six Flags during that time had major debt, which resulted in the Northwest section of the park to be closed. It never reopened in the last season when Six Flags owned the park.
Six Flags had a large amount of debt, and the amended lease for the park was rejected by the Kentucky State Fair Board.
The park did not open for the 2010 season.
Six Flags removed many theming items and other things from the park (like water tubes or shades) to later use at other parks. Road Runner Express was also for the company to keep.
The Kentucky Kingdom Redevelopment Company was formed in May of 2010. The funding needed to be approved. At the end of September in 2011, the company ceased it’s intent because the fair board put an end to negotiations.
In January 2012, the owners of Holiday World in Indiana were interested in the future of the park. They would change the name and make major changes, opening the park in 2013.
The plans were later dropped due to government regulations and restrictions. Ed Hart believes, however, that the Koch family (owners of Holiday World) used the opportunity in attempt to eliminate competition. Holiday World and Kentucky Kingdom are very tough competititors with each other.
In 2013, the Kentucky Fair Board granted approval for lease and the KTDFA approved incentives to reopen the park. Ed Hart and investors were in charge of park operations. The scheduled date to reopen was May 24th, 2014.
Many finance compromise and other arrangements were made. Construction began in July. Lightning Run, a Hyper GTX coaster was added to the park. Three new children’s rides were added as well as new attractions for the waterpark.
The park opening was a success. Kentucky Kingdom sold over 100,000 season passes just by June 24th of opening year.
In 2014, Cyclos and Skycatcher were announced for the 2015. In addition, three attractions already existing at the park were to be renovated. Enterprise, Raging Rapids River Ride, and T3.
Storm Chaser, which used part of the Twisted Twins structure, opened in 2016.
Eye of the Storm was added in 2017. Thunder Run also received track and other modifications to improve the ride experience.
Other upgrades and park improvements were also implemented.
For 2018. Scream Xtreme replaced Enterprise. A small Himalaya-family ride was also added.
For the 2019 season, the park announced Kentucky Flyer. After part of the ride was not approved by the Kentucky State Fair Board (the land), construction was to stop. After support of many people, govenors of the state were convinced to allow the project to continue.
Kentucky Kingdom for sure has a very unique and interesting history compared to most other amusement parks in the United States.
I hope you learned more about Kentucky Kingdom by reading this! I know I did!